Coronovirus: Considerations for Churches
Photo: COVID-19 as viewed under an electron microscope.
As new cases are diagnosed, the question of “How concerned should I be about Coronavirus?” is being asked by many around the world and of course, in our churches.
The first cases of Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, were diagnosed in China in December 2019. Since then, the illness with pneumonia-type symptoms, has spread to 37 nations to-date, including the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control, based here in the North Georgia Conference, is working around the clock to respond to the Coronovirus outbreak. Below are suggestions for North Georgia Conference churches to consider.
While places where people gather in close proximity, such as worship services, may be vulnerable, there are simple steps to take to limit risks, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Above all, anyone feeling unwell should stay home and seek medical care.
Other tips include:
- Wash your hands frequently. Use soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Maintain social distancing. Keep 3 feet between yourself and anyone who is sneezing and coughing.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Viruses can live on surfaces, where your hands may touch. Once on your hands, the virus may enter your body.
- Practice respiratory hygiene. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Dispose of used tissue immediately.
- If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. Call ahead for an appointment to limit your exposure to others.
- Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider. Stay up-to-date on Coronavirus by checking reliable sources, such as the WHO, National Institutes of Health, and Centers for Disease Control.
Suggestions for Churches
We have heard from North Georgia Conference congregations who learned to "bump elbows" during the passing of the peace last week. Others are opting for individual communion cups over intinction. Some churches have made hand sanitizer readily available as people enter and exit the sanctuary. Others are considering how they would receive an offering with plates or baskets stationary rather than being passed.
A few other tips for churches include:
- Use disinfectants on surfaces that are touched often. Examples are elevator push buttons, doorknobs, push plates and bars, copy machine, group printers, refrigerator door handles, microwaves, computer keyboards, desktops, phones, remote controls.
- Be ready to temporarily suspend physical contact, including shaking hands and hugs, as part of church services.
- Devise alternate methods of providing spiritual care to those who cannot attend worship. This may include offering church services via the Internet and creating phone networks of prayer partners.
With church mission trips coming up, we checked in with the SEJ United Methodist Volunteers in Mission.
"We are encouraging folks to check with their host, as well as the CDC website, and consult their church to make an informed decision before going on a mission trip," said Rev. Matt Lacey, executive director of UMVIM.